Buffalo Bills: Back to the Future


I bought it. Hook line and sinker. You did too, don’t lie. It was hard not too. The Bills were sitting at 5-3 at the bye week and had a string of winnable games laying ahead through the end of  November. They were legitimate playoff contenders for the first time in a long time. And then it all came crashing back down to earth in a sickening 5 day stretch of reality.

Yes, the Buffalo Bills are mathematically still alive for a playoff berth. But in order to even have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs the Bills have to win at least 5 of their last 6 games, which include games with the Broncos, Packers, and Patriots. Besides, the Bills don’t exactly look like a playoff team lately, not scoring a touchdown since the very first drive against the Chiefs 7 quarters ago.

When the Buffalo Bills handed the reigns over to Kyle Orton 4 games into the season, he was supposed to be the missing ingredient for a team that was “on the cusp of being a very good team.” Fans and experts (including myself) alike where citing that benching 2nd year quarterback EJ Manuel for the veteran Kyle Orton would help the Bills take the next step and compete for the division title. After a few good games and leading the Bills to a 5-3 record the move looked to be paying dividends. 2 weeks later Orton has come crashing back to earth.

Kyle Orton has looked like the castoff journeyman quarterback that many claim he is the past 2 weeks. Orton missed several open receivers against both the Chiefs and Dolphins and looked completely inept at executing the offense. Last night Orton was lucky the Dolphins secondary couldn’t catch because otherwise he would have had at least 2 interceptions on his stat line. Orton was also unable to find any open receiver not named Chris Hogan or Bryce Brown and considering he has now been a member of the Bills for 10 games, missing training camp is no longer a viable excuse.

2 weeks ago I wrote an article titled “Kyle Orton and the Buffalo Bills: A Perfect Fit.” At the time the Bills were 5-3 and looking like they might be poised to make a run at a playoff berth. Kyle Orton, while not flashy, was playing good football and making Doug Marrone look like a genius for inserting him into the starting role following the Bills week 4 loss to the Texans. I bought into the “Orton Mania” hook, line, and sinker. It was hard not too root for a guy like Kyle Orton who had been cast off every single place he played since entering the NFL. What Kyle Orton has done the past 2 weeks is remind us just why he was cast off in the first place.

Nobody was asking Kyle Orton to come in be Peyton Manning or Drew Brees. They were asking for improved production from the quarterback position and help the Bills make the playoffs. Considering that the Bills are now all but out of the playoff race, perhaps it’s time to put Orton back on the bench and give EJ Manuel his starting job back. The Bills need to begin evaluating the quarterback they drafted to be the franchise guy, and what better way than to give him 6 games to see what he’s got.

The Bills need EJ Manuel to work out and develop into a competent starting quarterback. They drafted him in the first round and traded away this years first round draft pick in order to move up and draft Sammy Watkins. The Bills need to let Manuel play and use the next 6 games to decide whether or not they want to go into next season with him as their starter. If they don’t, than it might be another year of Kyle Orton at the helm and after being reminded the past 2 weeks what that entails, I’m not sure I can stomach that.

Yes, I called for Manuel to be benched after he lost to the Texans in week 4. He was regressing and cost the Bills the previous two games with his poor play. At the time the Bills were still alive in the divisional title race because the Patriots were also 2-2. The Bills had to make the move to see if Orton could be the difference maker and help them compete for the divisional title. It’ hasn’t worked out. The Bills look nearly identical with Orton at quarterback the past 2 weeks, and with the Bills now all but out of the playoff race, it’s time to reinsert Manuel and evaluate him.

What do the Bills have to lose in going back to Manuel? Baring a miracle they aren’t going to make the playoffs and need to begin evaluating the talent they have for next season. With the season now a wash, it’s time to let the kid play and see what he’s learned from being on the bench for 6 weeks. Who knows, maybe he will show us all why the Bills took him in the first round to begin with.

Yes, it stings to admit that I was wrong about Kyle Orton being the answer for the Bills. But it’s much better to admit it sooner rather than later. The Bills can still salvage EJ Manuel by letting him play and grow over the remainder of the season. They already know what they have in Kyle Orton and it’s not the future. It’s time to go back to the future and see what EJ’s got over the next 6 weeks.